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Five Bad Reasons for Becoming a Heathen

Five Bad Reasons for Becoming a Heathen

I ran into an interesting post on Patheos entitled 5 Bad Reasons to Become a Pagan.  It’s an interesting post, but it seems to cover more Wiccan than Heathen issues.  So, like any good Viking, I’ve raided the subject and decided to talk about the five bad reasons for becoming a Heathen.  Maybe you agree with me; maybe you don’t.  Whatever.  But here is my list.

Bad Reason #1: You Want to Join a Whites-Only (Neo-Nazi) Religion

If you’ve hung out on my blog for any length of time, you knew this would be one of the bad reasons. We don’t want white supremacists or Neo-Nazis for the simple fact that they are a foul pollutant to our religion and we do not believe what they believe.  The history of Heathen belief bears this out.

Our ancestors belief in “race” was much different than identifying with the color of one’s skin.  Instead, they discriminated on religious beliefs, class, and political alliances.  So if you were a Viking from Scandinavia who believed in the Heathen gods, you were considered a vastly different person than the Anglo-Saxon who believed in Christ, rightly or wrongly. Now, if you were from Nubia (an African country) and had dark skin, you were considered the same race as Christians who had white skin because you believed in Christ.   If you were another color, Heathens didn’t care as long as you worshiped the Heathen gods and allied yourself with the kindreds they were in. So, your allies were considered the same as you.

As Heathens, we accept that the gods call people who are of a different ethnicity than those whose ancestors have come from the Northern European lands.  We are not here to judge our gods’ choices as to whom they wish as followers. Although skin color may be an issue today, Heathens should be inclusive when it comes to following our gods.

Bad Reason #2: You Want to Worship Our Gods Because You’re a Marvel Fan

You know, it’s okay to be introduced to the Heathen gods through Marvel, but if you’re becoming a Heathen because you find Tom Hiddleston or Chris Hemsworth sexy, maybe what you’re looking for isn’t a religion but a fan club.  You shouldn’t worship Loki because you’re enamored with Hiddleston.  Believe me, you aren’t the only one coming into the Northern religions because of the movies. The rest of us who are serious are going to sigh in disgust.  We’re not a place for you to live out your fantasies when it comes to actors, so you might as well go someplace else.

The other issue is that the Marvel Thor universe is only loosely based on our mythology.  There are plenty of differences, so don’t think you’re coming into a religion that is like the movies or the comics.

Bad Reason #3: You Have a Drinking Problem and You Want to Hide It

Heathens drink mead.  A lot.  We have rites that use mead quite often.  Both the blot and the sumbel use mead, and drinking often accompanies our holidays (which are many).  That being said, Odin states the following in the Havamal (11 – 14):

11.
A better burden can no man bear
on the way than his mother wit:
and no worse provision can he carry with him
than too deep a draught of ale.

12.
Less good than they say for the sons of men
is the drinking oft of ale:
for the more they drink, the less can they think
and keep a watch o’er their wits.

13.
A bird of Unmindfulness flutters o’er ale feasts,
wiling away men’s wits:
with the feathers of that fowl I was fettered once
in the garths of Gunnlos below.

14.
Drunk was I then, I was over drunk
in that crafty Jötun’s court.
But best is an ale feast when man is able
to call back his wits at once.

 [Translation Source]

You can argue whether these are really Odin’s words transcribed, but most Heathens accept it as wisdom.  So, if you’re an alcoholic, or a borderline alcoholic, who wants to use Heathenry as an excuse to drink, go to rehab.  Seriously.  We need people who have their wits about them and not people who use Heathenry as an excuse to drink.

Bad Reason #4: You Want to Use Heathenry as an Extended Version of Cosplay

I’m probably going to step on toes here, but if you’re using Heathenry just to dress up in cool clothing and armor, swing swords and carry medieval weapons, maybe you need to either be in an reenactment group or the SCA and not a Heathen.  Certainly there are Heathens in reenactment groups and the SCA, and there’s no reason why they shouldn’t be there.  The problem is when those people don’t take their Heathen beliefs seriously.  Look, I get that there are atheist and agnostic Heathens out there, but they still take their lore seriously (maybe a little too seriously for my taste).  No, I’m not saying that you need to become a recon asshat who insists that everything be done according to their (or some Asa-pope’s) interpretation of what the ancestors did, but at least you’re interested in the archaeology, lore, Eddas, writing, and the past.

Bad Reason #5: You Want to Be a Powerful Magic User

Oh gods, here I am using the “M” word (magic) again.  (I’m fairly skeptical about magic, so bear with me on this.)  Heathenry has a limited amount of  magic — we have seidr, we have runes, we have gods and giants, we have wights and other supernatural critters, we have berserkers and ulfhednar and whatnot.  We have our own lore and magic that surrounds it.  That being said, if you’re really looking for playing with magic a lot, you need to check out other pagan beliefs, most notably, Wiccan. It’s not that most Heathens wouldn’t welcome you into the fold; it’s just that you’ll be disappointed with Heathenry because we really don’t have what you’re looking for.  Other pagan beliefs have more magical tendencies. The Heathen magic is usually communicating with wights and gods, being possessed by a supernatural entity, foretelling the future, wards, and making requests to entities in the form of blots.  I’m not saying you can’t become powerful in your own right, but in many cases, you’ll find the magic somewhat lacking.

There are other bad reasons that are valid when it comes to becoming a Heathen..  Maybe you have some thoughts on this as well?

Should We Tear Down Confederate Statues?

Should We Tear Down Confederate Statues?

As usual, the Rational Heathen goes right at controversy head-on.  Which will probably get
someone’s panties in a wad.  My opinions may surprise you.  Furthermore, the reasons for my opinions probably aren’t what you would expect. So, let’s get to the post and see how many hate letters I get, huh?

Nazis and Charlottesville

The Alt-Right, AKA the Nazis, KKK, and white supremacists, are evil.  Period.  If you’ve read any of my posts, this statement comes as no surprise to you.  I abhor that we’ve attracted those elements in Heathenry and I really wish they would go back to their Christian roots and have those people deal with them (instead of us).  My dad helped liberate Jews right after WWII — he saw the concentration camps. I don’t mince words about what I think about Nazis.  They are horrendous.

Charlottesville was a terrible tragedy because three people died, including one civilian who was protesting the evil when an Alt-Right drove his car into a crowd of protesters.  The other two were police officers whose helicopter crashed. Nineteen people were injured when that car ran through the crowd.  The sad part is that none of this should have happened. All this was allegedly over a damn statue.  A hunk of metal.

Over a Damn Statue

Of course, it wasn’t just the statue that people were protesting. It’s the ideology behind what the statue is. Robert E. Lee was a famous southern general, which makes his statue a natural lightning rod for those who want to make him the poster boy for the Alt-Right bigots. (As an aside, Lee wasn’t pro-slavery, but he wasn’t outspoken against it.  He turned down serving in the Union against the South because of his loyalty to Virginia. I think he would probably be horrified over his legacy as an Alt-Right poster boy. Furthermore, he was against Civil War statues.)  The statue in question is still to be removed, just as there have been other statues removed. The descendants of  Lee, Davis, and Jackson have already said they want them removed.

Oddly enough, I don’t think removing the statues are a good idea.  Let me explain…

The Problem with Removing the Statues

It seems like a great idea to remove signs of hatred from public viewing.  The problem is that you don’t get at the root cause of the problem: the hatred, itself.  Instead, you remove a piece of history that could be used as an object lesson for those generations that follow.  It’s rather Soviet-esque to remove the existence of statues because you don’t like the person or ideology it represented. After all, if no one talks about it openly, surely it goes away, doesn’t it? (That was sarcasm, for those who don’t get it.)  That really worked for the Balkan states (sarcasm, again).  When the threat of the Soviet fist was lifted, fighting resumed.  Gee, I guess that’s one for the USSR, huh?  Never mind all the oppression there. (Sarcasm, folks)

Imagine, if you would, that everything anyone found offensive were to be removed. We would have few historical monuments.  People, both past and present, are incredibly flawed.  What would happen if Auschwitz and all the other concentration camps were destroyed instead of preserved?  We already have holocaust deniers–how many more would we have? What about Nazi buildings?  What about the Custard memorial at Little Big Horn?  What about the Battle of Culloden?   What about the Trail of Tears?  What about Columbus?  Should we remove those statues and memorials because they’re incredibly painful to someone?

Most of the founding fathers of our country owned slaves. Our Viking ancestors owned slaves.  Europeans owned slaves. Africans owned slaves. It has been a blight on humanity since the beginning of agriculture–and possibly before. Do we censor Mark Twain because he used the N-word (when he was incredibly anti-racist)?  Do we tear down those things that symbolize slavery?  Just because we remove something, doesn’t mean it no longer existed, or exists now.

I believe they need to be there.  Not as a place for the Alt-Right to congregate, but one that we can use as a way to educate people as to the atrocities of the past.

Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it. — George Santayana

Where the Problem Lies

The problem isn’t the statues.  They’re chunks of metal and stone. The problem is the underlying hatred and bigotry that exists.  Destroying monuments won’t eliminate the issue–in fact, as we’ve seen in Charlottesville, it actually adds fuel to the fire.  The problem is the way that our society treats minorities to this day.  Somehow because of genetic variations, some people are convinced that they’re better or superior to those without those variations. Those in the Alt-Right are convinced that they’re “pure,” when in fact, they just aren’t.  Genetics do not lie.  History and archaeology has further demonstrated that there have been incursions into Europe since humans first arrived. Our ancient ancestors didn’t care about “racial purity” — they only cared about whether or not the invaders were going to kill them.  And the invaders were more into acquisition of wealth: land, gold, food, and slaves.

Somehow, as a society we’ve become fucked up to the point where statues mean more than human beings.  (And Christians accuse Heathens of idolatry?) I believe we’re at a turning point in history where we can either stand up for the equality of all humans regardless of their ethnicity or skin color, or we can let the thugs take over.  I do not advocate violence while there is still some shred of the rule of law.  Right now we need to work on fixing the inequity and protecting our fellow human beings,  Because, we’re all in this together now.

 

Is it Time to Abandon the Irminsul?

Is it Time to Abandon the Irminsul?

Oh, boy howdy.  I know I’m going to get flack for this post, but the question has been brewing in my mind for some time. Every time I see stylized depictions of the Irminsul, I feel uncomfortable. Not because of the original meaning of the Irminsul, but what it has grown to represent due to the blatant misappropriation by the neo-Nazis and the white supremacists.

So, before I get into the reasoning behind my question — and with all honesty, I do not have an answer to the question — let’s get into the history behind the Irminsul and why it is important to heathen beliefs.

Where the Irminsul Comes from

The Irminsul or Ermensul comes straight from the Saxons. Arguably it’s named after Irmin, a
presumably main Saxon god who is linked either with Tyr or Odin, according to early 20th century historians.This is a largely reconstructed god and may or may not have existed.  Many later scholars do not think there was such a god, instead thinking that the Irminsul was more likely a representation of Yggdrasil or the World Tree.

Dr. Karl E. H. Seigfried mentions the destruction of the Irminsul in this post, and also notes that the author who writes about it wrote the account 88 years after the fact.  He furthermore adds:

“The Saxon Poet writes that the Irminsul “was fashioned in the form of a huge column and contained a corresponding wealth of adornment,” but his account was written nearly 120 years after the destruction of the site. Such later sources must be treated with caution; sources contemporary with the Saxon war do not clarify whether the Irminsul was a carved column or a natural tree.”

So, not only do we have a questionable god, but also we don’t know if the Irminsul was a post or a tree.  And while it had a huge temple surrounding it, we really don’t have any archaeological evidence determining what it was.  While we do have one possible image of it, it is a Christian depiction and not pagan art. This piece of art appeared somewhere between the 9th and 12th centuries, most likely by an artist who had never seen an Irminsul.

The Axis Mundi, or Pillar of the World

The Irminsul, and Yggdrasil, for that matter, is a form of the axis mundi, or the pillar of the world. The concept appears time and again throughout most religions. The axis mundi is the link between the heavens and the earth, forming a bridge like the bifrost from the mundane to the supernatural. Too many religions to name have this conduit, and the Irminsul appears to be a representation of the conduit. I agree with later historians, (rightly or wrongly), that it was the Saxons’ form of the World Tree.

Corruption by the Nazis

It didn’t take long for the Nazis to point to Irminism and Wotanism as their own religions due to the evolution of Heathenry in northern Europe. A great deal of emphasis was placed on the site of Externsteine where, I kid you not, a psychic Nazi archaeologist, claimed there was an Irminsul, even though there is no physical proof of one. Look up Karl Maria Wiligut sometime. This guy created the SS logo and was a spiritual counselor for Himmler.  Fun times.

The sign of the Irminsul and the meaning had been adopted by men such as Heinrich Himmler, who was big into the occult. During these dark days, heathens saw their images such as teiwaz, othala, algiz, and sowelu become part of the Nazi symbols. The Irminsul was offered as an alternative to the Christian cross.

 

Neo-Nazi and White Supremacist Symbols

If you check out the JDL’s hate symbol database, you’ll be dismayed to find images such as othala, teiwaz, and other heathen runes to be part of the neo-Nazi symbols. You also may see something that looks like a skinhead crucified on a teiwaz rune. 

Oddly enough, it looks like an Irminsul. And I suspect it’s intentional, as is the crucified skinhead looking like a mockery of the White Christ. Although I have no love for Christianity, the blending of the two images from two different beliefs, combined with the overall hate message has left me uneasy.  (Yes, I know Odin hung himself on the World Tree for nine days, but that was upside down. I really think this is a Heathen and Christian blending in a perverse way.) This combined with the obvious Nazi history of the Irminsul has corrupted it to the point where I’m not certain we can ever win it back without the soiled context. Look at the swastika and tell me that it is free from the Nazi taint, even though it was an ancient rune and symbol. It’s foolish to think otherwise.

If you don’t think it is still considered by the Nazis as part of the symbolism, I’ll point to the recent vandalism at Externsteine by the neo-Nazis. They consider it part of their beliefs in a big way.

So, Where Does that Leave Us with the Irminsul?

So, where does that leave us with the Irminsul?  With all honesty, I haven’t a fucking clue. It’s the World Tree, the axis mundi, and a symbol of the Saxons. But do we use the stylized Christian depiction, or go with something else?  Do we even bother with the term Irminsul and call it the World Tree?  Given the shaky ground we’re already on historically, do we even bother with it?  Or do we take it back somehow?  Maybe others will have a better idea which way to go with it, I sure don’t.

My own instinct is to let it die and stick with the World Tree.  It may not be the best solution, but it is one I am more comfortable with.  Either that or come up with a better depiction of the Irminsul which may be more historically accurate, and less, well…, Nazi.

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We Need to Get Rid of Racism NOW

We Need to Get Rid of Racism NOW

I’m tired of racism.  I really am.  I’m tired of the white supremacists claiming our beliefs.  As I’ve said: there is no such thing as race. Whether your skin color is white, black, brown, yellow, purple, or green — if you’re human, you’re human.  Science has a theory that is pretty much proves that we came out of Africa.  And for those of you theory deniers, here’s my quote (so you understand what a theory is):in a previous post, I’ll state it again:

The word “theory” in science used to describe an explanation of why and how things happen. For gravity, we use Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity to explain why things fall. “Theory” is not synonymous with “unproven.”  “Theory” means that the statement is consistent with everything we know, including facts. However, if a new fact were to arrive that changes our understanding of the world, it may change the Theory. For example, depending on how you use gravity varies the terminology. If you’re using it in mathematics, it’s a Law. But if you’re talking about gravity and how it interacts with things, it’s a Theory.

My Dad Kicked Nazi Butts

I hope my Christian dad is in Folkvangr because, by the gods, he did the right thing. He arrived in Germany just after the war and told me he had been stationed at one of Hitler’s concentration camps that still held Jews.  You see, with that many people displaced, the Americans had no choice but to keep these poor people in the same nightmare they had been in.  Only they took care of these people.  Don’t you dare try to tell me the Holocaust was fake.  It most certainly was not.  My dad was there.  He saw.  He knew.

My dad did a lot of searching for Nazi sympathizers and throwing them in prison. He never told me all he did, but I do know he was in Germany during the Berlin Airlift, too.  Yeah, my dad was one of those who lived history.

He and I used to sit and watch WWII movies and documentaries all the time.  He had nothing good to say about any of the Nazis.  He felt that the Holocaust was terrible.  And it was.  Anyone who thinks the Holocaust or other “final solutions” needs to have their head examined.  There is no excuse for it.

And I’m pretty sure that those who had a hand in the Holocaust have gone Náströnd for this.  It is our equivalent of the Christian hell for those guilty of murder, adultery, and oath-breaking. 6 million people murdered.  Hitler is dragon fodder. And good riddance.

There is No Place for White Supremacists in Heathenism

I grew up hating bigots who oppressed people because of their religion, ethnicity, or skin color.  I hate skinheads, and if you use my religion to further your white supremacist beliefs, you need to go back to whatever religion you came from.  I don’t want you here, nor do many people who believe in our gods, whether they be Asatru, Heathen, or Pagan. It’s bad enough that our runes like Othala, Sowelu, and even Teiwas had been stolen by your kind.

Our gods are not racist. They can’t be.  The reason is obvious: our religion came from one source at one time.  Eventually it branched out into the religions we know today.  Why?  Because humans more than once nearly went extinct.  (I cover this in the links above).  We’re all related, with some minor variation of Neanderthals and Denisovian genes thrown in.  We’re all one race.  You and I have the same mitochondria from one woman who lived long ago.  And guess what?  So does every human on this planet including people of African descent, Jewish people, and your particular tribe.

To Those Who Tolerate White Supremacists

Being silent is consent.  If you’re not against these evil people, then you are for them.  Plain and simple.  Even if you don’t care/don’t think it’s wrong/don’t have a stand/think I’m exaggerating and being emotional, let’s look at the whole racism thing without the emotion attached.  If you are Asatruar or Heathen who still puts up with racism and bigotry, even though you may say you’re against it, ask yourself do you really want this to be a religion where the first things people think of is racism?  Because guess what?  That’s what makes headlines.  And what makes headlines is exactly what will attract more of the same white supremacists.  Do you really want Asatru to be the religion of hate?

You might argue the No True Scotman defense, which is patently bullshit.  Asatru and Heathenism by its northern roots often attracts those who are looking for something folkish.  These miscreants twist the meaning of our religion and culture for their own use.  And the press, knowing no different, paints us all with a broad brush.

I get exceedingly frustrated because most of them are Odinists.  And I don’t have a problem with Odin being someone’s main god as long as they understand Odin doesn’t condone bigotry, even if he can be wonky at times. Most white supremacists are Christian, and yet no one points to Christianity as a religion of hate.  The difference is that Christianity is pervasive.  Asatruar and Heathenism is not. Is the press making the same misguided mistakes people do when they paint us all with a broad brush?  Yes.  It doesn’t matter what you think.  You have already been tried and convicted in the court of public opinion if you don’t speak up.      

Why are We Still Dealing with Racism and Bigotry?

Call me a Jew lover.  You betcha.  I’ll wear that proudly and Tyr will back me up one hundred percent. While I don’t agree with the Abrahamic religions, I don’t believe in persecuting anyone on account of being a Jew or Christian or Muslim.  My roommate in college was Muslim and was the nicest kid I ever knew.  I have had friends of different religions and no religions.

This is why it has shocked me it has become fashionable lately to be bigoted toward Jews again.  I see more and more outright aggression toward a group of people who have suffered so much.  These are humans.  They are people who have different beliefs that were forced into certain cultural roles due to intolerance and persecution.  I’ve seen this bigotry among college graduates and people who claim to be liberal, but are clearly motivated by their own forms of hatred. My dad, who was conservative, was less bigoted than they are.

As for race, remember: there is no such thing as race, although there is ethnicity.  (Again you can read the posts I cited above to understand the difference.)  If you want to be proud of your ethnicity, fine.  But don’t think that another group is inferior.  We’re all the same people with minor genetic differences. 

Ask Yourself Why You Hate a Particular Ethnicity

I’m asking you now why you hate a particular group of people?  Is it because you remember someone of that ethnicity was mean to you?  I remember being treated badly by a black kid when I was growing up — I didn’t think that kid was bad because she was black.  I thought that kid is mean because she was mean.  She was just one mean kid in a group of bullies, who, incidentally, were mostly white.  I didn’t think in terms of color.  Color was just another thing.

If you’ve been treated badly by someone not of your ethnicity, maybe it’s time to look at the person and not the color of their skin. There are bad people of all ethnicity. Hel, there are bad people of different tribes that are looking to harm us, but those are their ideologies and not their actual genetic makeup. If you’re looking for bogeymen or scapegoats to blame because of your circumstance and think hating and blaming others is okay, think again.  It’s easy to demonize the other, especially when you put yourself into one tribe versus another mode. 

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character. Martin Luther King, Jr.